Sermon on Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:1-13; St. John 14:23-31
The Day of Pentecost
+ Come, Holy Spirit +
Things come in three’s in Christianity. We hear three Scripture lessons every Sunday. Today, the Day of Pentecost, is the third major festival of the church year, along with Christmas and Easter. The three persons of the Trinity, of course, permeate the entire Christian life, from baptism to eternal life. Today, however, I’d like to focus on another set of three, viz. three books for the Lutheran confirmand. We all need these three books, for they teach us all that we need to know for our faith and life.
The first book for the Lutheran confirmand is the Bible, the book for reading and preaching Christ crucified. Today’s second lesson from the book of Acts tells us about the first biblical sermons after the Ascension, the Apostles’ sermons at Pentecost. Jesus had told His Apostles to tarry in Jerusalem and to await for power from on High. People from every nation under heaven were gathered for the OT Harvest Festival, which also celebrated the giving of the Law. And on this, the most important Pentecost of them all, everyone heard the Gospel in their own language: Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and many more. I invite you to read all of Acts 2 this week at home. You’ll discover an excellent, Biblical example of Christian preaching: a call to repentance, the proclamation of forgiveness, and an invitation to be baptized. For now, I’d like to highlight two thoughts from today’s lesson from Acts 2. First, the Word is preached. “And [the Apostles] were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” So it begins with the mouth, the instrument for preaching Law and Gospel. Second, the Word is heard. “We hear [the Apostles] telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” So how did the Bible of the first Christians, what we later called “The Old Testament,” have a part in early Christian preaching? It was read aloud and expounded (the Word preached). And it was heard in faith (the Word believed). Out of the mouth and into the ear, to which we should add into the heart and into our daily lives.
So it is for you and me! Sabrina, Maddy, Sarah, and Catherine, you have learned much from the study of the Scriptures. You have recited and even spelled correctly the names of the books of the Bible, along with the greater task of understanding the Sacred Scriptures and their theme: forgiveness of sins by grace through faith in the Messiah. You have mastered the “find a passage” game to the point of great wear and tear on our Bibles. Good for you! Today we rejoice with thankful hearts that you are on a Pentecost journey to continue to hear and believe the preached Word. Today is not graduation. Rather, today we publicly proclaim that you are students of the Word for life. Be cautious, Dearly Beloved, of the pitfalls of not attending Sunday School or Adult Bible Study, of neglecting your daily Bible reading, or of asking what’s the fewest number of times I have to attend church to technically be a member of a congregation. No. The Word of God is a vast treasure which you and I will never fully fathom in this lifetime. The Word is preached and heard–a dynamic and powerful Word, piercing the heart in repentance and healing wounded hearts with the Word of the Gospel. So hear this Word, believe it, and spend a lifetime enjoying the mighty works of God.
Today, then, I will ask you, “Do you hold all the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God?” You will answer, “I do.” That is to say, you hold the Old and New Testaments of the Sacred Scriptures to be God-breathed, Christ-centered, and Spirit-inspired. Through this book, you have not just another academic textbook, but the Word of God that names, preaches, and pictures Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
The doctrine given in the Bible is summarized in short and simple terms in the second book for the Lutheran confirmand, the Small Catechism. The Bible is like the sun. It has its own, independent energy. The sun is a life-source that never runs dry. The Small Catechism, in turn, is like the moon. It has no light of its own, but the Small Catechism faithfully faithfully reflects the light of the sun to this earth. This teaching aspect of the Catechism and the preached Word is reflected in today’s Gospel lesson. Speaking to His disciples on the night He was betrayed, Jesus said, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” The word translated as “teach” is the root of our word “didactic,” a teaching tool or function. So Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will take everything that is of Christ and deliver it to us. Yes, the Holy Spirit is always the Spirit of Christ. Like the moon, He has nothing of His own to give. He is quite willing to remain anonymous, as long as Christ is preached and extolled.
Sabrina, Maddy, Sarah, and Catherine, you have begun you life-long immersion in the Small Catechism. Through the six chief parts, you have learned to know Christ and to know Him aright:
The Ten Commandments preach repentance.
The Apostles’ Creed preaches the faith that saves us from our sin.
The Lord’s Prayer preaches the holy life.
The Sacrament of Holy Baptism regenerates sinners and makes us Christians.
Confession and Absolution return us to the promises of our baptism daily.
The Sacrament of the Altar gives us the body and blood of Christ for salvation.
We should also mention two unique aspects of Luther’s Small Catechism that set it apart as an important book for your Christian faith and life. First, it truly summarizes all that you need to know of Christian doctrine. Every question of Christian doctrine is answered in the Small Catechism. Any question of Christian doctrine that is not answered in the Small Catechism is either not revealed by God or not worth knowing. Second, of all the catechisms in Christianity, only Luther’s Small Catechism can be prayed. Yes, it is a prayerbook. Do not do as many before you have done, placing the Small Catechism on the shelf and eventually, one presumes, on the used book market. Rather, pray your Catechism every day. Pray the six chief parts, the Table of Duties, the Daily Prayers, and the Christian Questions and Answers. For here the Holy Spirit will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that Jesus has taught you.
And so today I will ask you, “Do you confess the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, drawn from the Scriptures, as you have learned to know it from the Small Catechism, to be faithful and true?” If so answer, “I do.” That is to say, you will read, pray, mark, and learn the Small Catechism for life because it preaches the Lord of Life and His Word of Life.
The doctrine given in the Bible and summarized in the Catechism comes to expression in Christian worship in the third book for the confirmand, the hymnal. Doctrine is too good to remain on the shelf in a fine collection of books. And doctrine is too rich just to talk about. It must sing. Yes, all that God has given us to believe must be sung, for one always sings when God is doing mighty works in Christ. Today’s OT lesson from Joel describes Christian worship as men call upon the name of the Lord. Looking ahead to the New Testament and the new Jerusalem, the prophet says, “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” That’s OT talk for worship, isn’t it? It recalls the first reference to worship in the OT, where we read, “At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord” (Gen. 4:26). The name of the Lord is the presence of the Lord. Where His Divine name is invoked, the Lord is present to bless His people with all of His gifts. And so Joel says that, even in the midst of destruction, those who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. He will be present in Mt. Zion, the New Jerusalem, the Christian church. And where He is present, He brings forgiveness and eternal salvation to all who believe.
So it is for you! Sabrina, Maddy, Sarah, and Catherine, the hymnal that you worship from this very day guides your sung confession of faith. It takes all that is given in the Bible and summarized in the Catechism and brings it to a high and holy doxology to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As you know from our study of the liturgy, the two basic parts of the liturgy in our hymnal are the Word and the Sacrament. We talk with God in His Word. We eat with Him in His Supper. The sermon serves as a hinge between the two, preaching on the Gospel Lesson and inviting the baptized to the Lord’s Supper. Five ordinaries in the hymnal – Kyrie, Gloria, Creed, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei – serve as the pillars of the Divine Service. And the propers – Scripture readings, chants, hymns, etc. – give a unique “color” to each Sunday. It all comes together as Divine Service, the work of God, where men call upon the name of the Lord and the Lord graciously bestows His gifts upon His people. Yes, Christ Himself is here as we pray and sing from the hymnal. And He comes to abide with you, to dwell with you, and to give you life.
These two parts of the liturgy, the word and the sacrament, are articulated for you today in the Confirmation Rite: “Do you intend to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord’s Supper faithfully?” Answer: “I do, by the grace of God.” That is to say, you want to hear the preached Word of Jesus Christ and Him crucified; maybe even to fill out a sermon report form! And you long to eat His body and drink His blood, all set in the context of the historic Christian liturgy that is faithfully contained in our hymnal.
And so today, armed with these three books, I will place the hand of blessing upon each of you and say, “The almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given you new birth of water and of the Spirit and has forgiven you all your sins, strengthen you with His grace to life everlasting.” That is to say, may the God who baptized you in the name of the Trinity continue to oversee your instruction in these three books for the Lutheran confirmand: the Bible, the catechism, and the hymnal. And may He strengthen and confirm you in baptismal grace and sacramental participation, even to the final resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.
God grant it unto you for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Rev. Brian Hamer